Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Foothills Regional Airport (KMRN), Morganton, North Carolina: Another delay over plea negotiations

MORGANTON, NC — The federal government was working on plea deals in the Foothills Regional Airport investigation and it appeared new charges could be imminent.

But Tuesday, the government filed a motion for another stay of 60 days in the case because plea deal negotiations have not been resolved and more time is needed, the motion argues. The third motion to stay says the 60 days will give the government time for plea negotiations to be finalized and any pertinent plea documents in the prosecution of a related criminal matter can be filed. The government argues that discovery in the case will interfere with ongoing negotiations in the related criminal matter.

No one else has been charged in the case and the federal government’s second motion to stay expired this week. In the previous stay, the government’s argument for it was “so that the parties to this proceeding may finalize plea negotiations and file pertinent plea documents in the prosecution of a related criminal matter.”

Former Foothills Regional Airport Authority board member Randy Hullette filed a claim for a Mercedes that was seized from Alex Nelson during the FBI’s initial raid on the airport and Nelson’s home on June 5, 2012. The federal government has fought Hullette’s claim but requested a temporary stop in the case, called a motion to stay, for 120 days. Just as that motion to stay was about to run out, the government filed another stay, this time one that would last 30 days.

The second motion to stay said the government expected plea negotiations would be finalized in a matter of days. That motion was filed June 19, according to court documents.

The second stay goes on to say, “In this case, broad civil discovery on the cusp of the final resolution of negotiations in the criminal matter could adversely affect the ability of the parties to promptly resolve the related criminal matter. Furthermore, the Government does not anticipate that any more than an additional thirty days of stay is necessary for the parties to resolve that criminal matter and this civil forfeiture case.”

But the third motion to stay filed Tuesday says negotiations are still on-going.

Former Airport Manager Alex Nelson and former operations manager Brad Adkins pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy and embezzling, and Nelson also pleaded guilty to money laundering. In September, Nelson and Adkins agreed to help the government in any trial, hearing or grand jury proceeding, including testifying against any co-defendants.

The timeframe for the crimes that occurred with the airport was between June 2009 and June 2012, according to court documents.

It’s unclear who the government could be working out plea agreements with, but Hullette has been tied to the investigation.

Hullette previously filed a claim for the Mercedes, saying he sold the car to Nelson but that he never received payment for the car.

When the government filed its first motion to stay for 120 days earlier this year, the motion said, “Law enforcement is still investigating the criminal conduct that forms the basis of the Bill of Information. Specifically, Hullette is a subject of such investigation, and law enforcement is attempting to determine what criminal culpability Hullette and others may have in this case.”

The first order to stay instructed the government that after the expiration of the 120 day period, the stay would automatically dissolve unless the government could show by motion reasons why the stay should not be lifted. That stay was granted, as was the additional 30-day stay.

Story:  http://www.hickoryrecord.com